Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Ahmadis in Rawalpindi had no place to offer Eid prayers: Spokesperson

The Express Tribune
The Ahmadis living in Rawalpindi were not allowed to offer Eid prayers on August 20 at their main place of worship, Ewan e Tawheed, said a press release on Wednesday. The spokesperson of Jama’at Ahmadiyya Pakistan, Saleemuddin, said that “the government and local administration has violated Article 20 of the Constitution after stopping Ahmadis from congregating for Eid prayers. The Article 20 ensures every citizen to freely perform religious duties.” Saleemuddin, in the press release, stressed that the Ahmadis would never compromise or accept any pressure on their fundamental right to worship. “This is not only a denial of religious freedom but is also depriving the Ahmadis of an annual ritual where worship goes with social activity,” the press release added. According to a tweet by Saleemuddin, the order to stop Ahmadis from praying at their place of worship was issued by senior district officials.

Prince Harry: naked photographs published online

Nude Harry photos: How UK tabloids lost their sting
video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player Another day, another story about Prince Harry. The party-loving grandson of Queen Elizabeth II has been exposed again, this time naked, playing strip billiards flanked by an equally naked girl.
But what makes this story interesting -- and not just gratuitous tittle-tattle -- is the initial reluctance of the British press to even report the story in print or on their online digital media. It seems patently absurd to me that millions around the world can view the photographs online, yet no British newspaper would touch them. The big question is why? When grainy photographs were first published on the net by TMZ and seen by millions, the palace were forced to confirm it was him in the photos after speculation about the identity. In doing so his PR team reminded media outlets in the UK that the pictures were taken in a hotel suite where the prince would have had a reasonable expectation of privacy. This was a sharp move, given that every editor in this land would know that Clause 3 of the Press Complaints Commission Editor's Code of Practice states: "It is unacceptable to photograph individuals in private places without their consent." To publish in a UK tabloid then would be a clear breach. But the newspapers have been left impotent by this move. They have again been scooped by the digital media. This is a dangerous precedent and in my view tantamount to returning to the good old, bad old days of royal reporting when in 1936 American and European newspapers freely reported on the affair of King Edward VIII and Mrs. Simpson while an establishment deal meant nothing was reported in the British newspapers. Censorship of that royal story helped create the hysteria around the abdication crisis, polarizing opinion and may even have led to an atmosphere where the king felt he was forced to choose between love and duty. More importantly, surely -- like then -- the British paying public has a right to know what their royal family is up to. But post-Leveson -- the inquiry established in the aftermath of the News International phone-hacking scandal first revealed after both Princes William and Harry's phones were targeted -- no editor seemed, initially at least, is prepared to risk the backlash. Amid all the media navel-gazing there seems to be a genuine fear that the press feels it is no longer drinking in "The Last Chance Saloon" but time has already been called. But this latest naked Harry scandal is a watershed moment -- a moment when it is fair to ask: "Who is wagging the dog?" When I was a reporter on the tabloid Sun newspaper in 1991 old photos were circulated of Prince Andrew naked. Like Harry he was a playboy prince, dubbed "Randy Andy" by the tabloids. The then-Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie bought the pictures and simply ran them across a double page inside spread (with a crown jewel sticker to spare the prince's blushes) and waited for the reaction. The reaction was MPs huffed and puffed their outrage in parliament and sales of the newspaper went up. I understand as we go to publication that Fleet Street (as the national UK national newspapers are still collectively referred to) has woken up to the story. Picture desks were today busy negotiating for the pictures and new snaps in circulation. Even if they do publish it is clear that the online media is calling the shots -- forcing the papers to react when in the past it was always the newspapers that led. In these times with newspaper sales figure nose-diving it is critical for them to decide are they leaders or followers. Restricted by their own rules it leaves them exposed, giving the impression that they are slow to react.The problem newspapers face is that a new generation want news now, unrestricted and immediate. If they do not want to lose touch with that generation of readers altogether they have to at least compete with social and new media. As for Prince Harry, I do have sympathy for him. He has been betrayed by somebody and caught with his guard down. He could argue that he could expect privacy in his own hotel room, but the truth is he should have known that Las Vegas is not a place where you can expect anything other than trouble -- especially if you are one of the world's most famous people. He has been let down before -- who can forget the Harry the Nazi photos, again taken on a phone by somebody in a private venue. He could blame his protection team, I really do not understand why the S014 officers did not ask the girls for their mobile phones on security grounds. But in truth the only one who has let any one down is Harry. How 'soldier prince' Harry tore up royal rule book I know he is young, free and single -- but he is a prince with responsibilities. He is bright enough and should have learned from his mistakes. The shame is that he had turned the corner. He represented his grandmother admirably at the Olympics Closing Ceremony and on a recent tour this year to Jamaica. If the royal family is to be streamlined -- with Harry as one of the central public players -- he really has got to be more cautious about the company he keeps.

Pressure mounts on Afghan refugees

Pakistan is putting pressure on the estimated 2.8 million Afghan registered and unregistered refugees to return to their homeland by the end of 2012. The government has said it will not renew the ID cards of the 1.8 million registered Afghan refugees. Last week, Habibullah Khan, secretary in the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions, was quoted by the media as saying: "The international community desires us to review this policy but we are clear on this point. The refugees have become a threat to law and order, security, demography, economy and local culture. Enough is enough. "After 31 December 2012, there is no plan to extend the validity of the POR [proof of registration] cards of Afghan refugees. Those currently registered will lose the status of refugees. They will be treated under the law of the land. The provincial governments have already been asked to treat the existing unregistered refugees as illegal immigrants.” “Asylum space is narrowing given that the government of Pakistan is pretty serious about returning most of them to Afghanistan,” said Aamir Fawad, protection officer with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). “We are talking to the government to extend, but it is unclear what will happen.” In June, Pakistan agreed to delay the forced repatriation of 400,000 Afghans who were rounded up in Peshawar for being in the country illegally. “There is increased pressure on them to either move to camps or repatriate,” one aid worker who preferred anonymity told IRIN. “Every day, I see people being harassed by the security officials. Those living in refugee villages are facing pressure from landlords as well. Yet at the same time, the situation in Afghanistan is not attractive for return.” eo/cb

Establishment always played anti-PPP role

Information and Broadcasting Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said on Wednesday that the role of establishment always remained against PPP in the elections in the past. While talking to the media, he said the anti democratic behaviour of the establishment resulted in the weakness of the democratic institution in Pakistan. He said that whenever the government of PPP came into power, it tried to hold free, fair and transparent elections. For this purpose, the appointment of Chief Election Commissioner was carried out through consensus after legislation for the first time in the history of the country, he added. “The office for members of election commission has been made constitutional for which the appointees took oath. These steps were necessary to maintain transparency in the electoral process. After that the crystal clear electoral rolls were prepared with the help of NADRA”, he added. He said that some leaders of PTI took the stance that they would not accept care taker setup if they were not consulted, but the constitution says that it is prerogative of prime minister and leader of the opposition to form care taker government. But PPP would also consult those parties which are not present in the parliament, he added. He said further that the drone attacks should be stopped at once because they were causing loss to the war against terrorism in Pakistan. The current wave of terrorism in Pakistan was very alarming, he said adding that, at this juncture, when Pakistan was there on many fronts, some anti Pakistan elements were airing terrorism, which would be at par with weakening the country.

Amnesty urges Pakistan to protect girl
AMNESTY International has urged Pakistan to reform its blasphemy laws and protect a young Christian girl arrested for allegedly burning pages inscribed with verses from the Koran. The Muslim-majority nation's strict anti-blasphemy laws make defaming Islam or desecrating the Koran illegal and potentially punishable by death. Rimsha, who is between 10 and 13 years old and is reported to have Down Syndrome, was taken into custody in a low-income area of Islamabad on Thursday after furious Muslims demanded she be punished. Polly Truscott, Amnesty International's South Asia director, said the case showed the "erosion of the rule of law" in Pakistan and the dangers faced by those accused of blasphemy. "Amnesty International is extremely concerned for Rimsha's safety. In the recent past individuals accused of blasphemy have been killed by members of the public," Truscott said in a statement issued late Tuesday.President Asif Ali Zardari on Monday ordered officials to explain the arrest, while Christians fled the neighbourhood of Mehrabad in fear at Muslim anger over the incident. Truscott welcomed Zardari's response but warned it would count for little unless there were "greater efforts to reform the blasphemy laws to ensure they cannot be used maliciously to settle disputes or enable private citizens to take matters into their own hands." Neighbours said Rimsha had burned papers collected from a garbage pile for cooking in her family home and someone alerted the local cleric after spotting the remains being thrown out as rubbish. A Christian mother sentenced to death for blasphemy in late 2010 remains in prison, while last month, a mob snatched a mentally unstable man from a village police station and beat him to death in central Punjab province after he allegedly burned pages from a Koran.

Pakistan: Lawmkaer delegration leaves for India

A delegation of Pakistani parliamentarians and traders left for India through the Wagah border here on Wednesday on a four-day visit for a dialogue with their counterparts on issues including bilateral trade and visa policy.The delegation, apart from attending a series of meetings with their Indian counterparts, is also scheduled to participate in the 4th round of the India-Pakistan Parliamentarians dialogue. The Pakistani side is being led by the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) Secretary General and Leader of the House in the Senate Jahangir Badar. Speaking to media representatives at Wagah before crossing the border, the delegation expressed hope that progress would be achieved with regards to relaxation of visa policy. Jahangir Badar said that efforts are being made for the growth and promotion of trade and economic activities and the establishment of peace between the two countries. Badar added that the delegation was being represented by members from all provinces and political parties in Parliament. Also speaking at the same occasion, Awami National Party (ANP) leader Haji Adeel said that apart from trade, the two countries should also focus their cooperation efforts on education and health. Members of the delegation include leader of the House in Senate Jehangir Badar, Deputy Chairman Senate Sabir Ali Baloch, Deputy Speaker National Assembly Faisal Karim Khundi, Nadeem Afzal Chan, Khurram Dastagir, Shazia Marri and Haji Adeel.

Who is to blame for India's ethnic unrest?

As Pakistan is accused of fuelling ethnic tensions in India, we analyse the allegations and factors behind it.
India has accused neighbouring Pakistan of fabricating threatening messages – sent by mobile phones and over the internet – that triggered a panic among migrant workers in southern Indian cities, driving thousands to flee their homes. The messages threatened revenge attacks by Muslims against people from indigenous communities in the northeastern state of Assam. As a result India has banned bulk messaging services for 15 days. In July, violence in Assam between the predominantly Hindu Bodo tribe and Muslim groups resulted in the deaths of at least 77 people. The clashes also displaced an estimated 400,000 people, mostly Muslims of Bangladeshi origin. A refugee camp has been set up in Jalpaiguri area of West Bengal. The Bodo claim the Muslims, who are mainly from Bangladesh and make up most of the immigrants in Assam, are trying to take their land. The state of Assam is home to more than 200 ethnic and tribal groups. Al Jazeera's Casey Kauffman reporting on the panic situation says Indian authorities have blocked several websites in Pakistan that show images of people allegedly killed in revenge attacks over the violence in Assam.Indian authorities have reportedly arrested four men in Bangalore and seized computers and mobile phones which had been used to send fake images from Assam. In this episode, Inside Story asks: How much of these latest allegations by India against Pakistan are true? And how will this affect the never-ending trouble between the two countries? Joining the discussion with presenter Ghida Fakhry are guests: KC Singh, a former Indian diplomat; Subir Sinha, a senior lecturer in Institutions and Development at the School of Oriental and African Studies; and Ahmed Quraishi, a columnist with News International and a Pakistan affairs analyst. "This is clearly an issue of ethnic tensions inside India that Pakistan has nothing to do with, there is no case of any Pakistani meddling in this matter … unless the Indian interior ministry comes up with some evidence, this is absolutely ridiculous." Ahmed Quraishi, a Pakistan affairs analyst

In Pakistan, missed paydays are a persistent problem

By Michele Langevine Leiby
It’s hard enough to get a decent job in Pakistan. But those who do are finding it increasingly difficult to get paid. The country’s top court recently had to step in to order that three months’ back wages be paid to public-sector female medical staff, known here as “lady health workers.” The problem also extends to doctors: A group of newly recruited physicians, hired to replace striking doctors in Punjab province, say they have not received pay in six weeks. And last year, Pakistan Railways employees shut down the country’s train system for days in a protest over unpaid wages. The situation cuts across myriad professions and appears to be on the rise, evidently a symptom of general economic distress that includes currency devaluation, high inflation, poverty and a persistent energy crisis. Last month municipal workers in Karachi staged a protest in which they were beaten back by police with batons and tear gas. The workers were demonstrating because they had not been paid in two months. “The [salary] delays are recurring frequently and for longer periods,” one city official told the Express Tribune, an English-language daily. With the onset of the Eid holiday — a time of gift-giving and family celebrations — unpaid workers have expressed increasing despair. A young journalist with a small newspaper in Lahore recently leapt to her death, allegedly because she had not been paid for at least two months. Media organizations, including newspapers and cable television channels, are often behind on payroll or pay only portions of salaries, journalists frequently complain. But they aren’t the only ones. “I’m facing so many troubles in this company,” said a 36-year-old computer specialist at a medical service firm in Lahore. “We have not received our salary from July.” The worker asked not to be identified because, he said, his employer would fire him. He and his wife have been living with his parents, he said, hoping at least for money for Eid, which was celebrated this week.. The firm has more than 100 employees, he said. The boss says, “‘I will pay you tomorrow, I will pay tomorrow,’ ” the worker said. “I am very discouraged.” The Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the Eid holiday that follows contribute to the problem by adding stress to a financial system that already makes it hard for companies to borrow. “The banks typically go through a significant liquidity drain during this season because not only do individual customers withdraw a lot of cash, but companies also sometimes hand out Eid bonuses to employees,” Farooq Tirmizi, a senior financial writer for the Express Tribune, explained in an e-mail. “The central bank’s rules effectively prohibit the banks from lending to large swaths of the economy, especially the services sector and agribusiness,” he said. “So even some very sizable companies cannot borrow to pay their Eid bills.” The government-reported poverty rate was 23 percent in 2006 — the last major survey done — but that figure has been challenged and is likely double that, especially in rural parts of the country and the semiautonomous tribal areas. Underemployment in urban areas is another problem: Educated people are settling for any job they can find, even if wages are low — and even if they might not get a paycheck for months. Said the unpaid computer specialist, who has 18 years of experience in his field: “I still go to work because I have no other option.”

ISI colonel provided vital help in locating Osama

An American journalist Richard Miniter in his latest book has claimed that a colonel from Pakistan’s spy agency had helped the US in providing vital information in locating former Al Qaeda chief, Osama Bin Laden, and that Pakistan’s army chief may have been briefed on the Abbottabad raid five months in advance. The book, “Leading from Behind: The Reluctant President and the Advisors Who Decide for Him” claimed that Pakistan had a greater role in the Abbottabad raid than what the American CIA had earlier stated. The book alleged that the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) officer had walked into the CIA’s Islamabad station in August 2010 and provided vital help in tracing Osama. “In a never-before-reported account, Pakistan was more involved in the bin Laden operation than Obama’s team admitted. When the CIA revealed that an ISI colonel had contacted the CIA in Islamabad and offered information about bin Laden, a debate followed,” said the book. “Was this a secret sign that the head of the ISI himself was pointing out bin Laden’s hiding place or was the colonel actually the patriot who hated extremism that he claimed to be? Whatever the motivation, the CIA found bin Laden’s hiding place within a month of the colonel’s visit,” the book claims. According to the book, as the CIA found the Abbottabad compound where Osama bin Laden lived along with his family members and started researching on the property, they found out that the land was “carved out” from the Pakistan military academy compound. “The records held another surprise. The land for the bin Laden lair seemed to have been carved out of property owned by the Kakul Military Academy, Pakistan’s answer to Sandhurst and West Point,” Miniter claimed. “The bin Laden compound was akin to an isosceles triangle, carved out of the property of the Kakul Military Academy, Pakistan’s West Point. The campus’s main building sat some eight hundred yards from bin Laden’s castle.” “The triangular compound was bordered with concrete walls ranging in height from ten to eighteen feet. The main building, a three-story tower, housed the arch terrorist, his wives, and their children,” he wrote. Bin Laden was killed by US Navy Seals inside his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan in May 2011. The former reporter with “The Wall Street Journal” and “The Washington Post” wrote in his book that Pakistan army chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani may have been briefed by the US on its operation to kill Osama bin Laden in December 2010, some five months in advance and that along with getting a tacit consent, a cover story had been developed with the Pakistani military. “There was talk about devising a cover story that would allow Pakistan to be helpful while keeping its leaders from political harm.” “The story, according to an official with secondhand knowledge of the White House discussion, was that bin Laden was killed in a drone strike and that the US later sent in a team to recover the body. That was believed to be less politically harmful than a commando team treading on Pakistan’s soil,” Miniter says. “According to this official, Pakistan’s Army chief of staff was alerted in December 2010, five months before the operation. No concrete facts about the operation were passed on, but an informal approval was sought,” he writes. The book also claimed that on March 14, 2011 during a situation room meeting that the US President, Barack Obama, decided that Pakistan “should be kept in dark” while America made its plans. “‘When the Seal helicopter crashed into bin Laden’s compound, the cover story was abandoned,’ the official said. The story could not be independently confirmed, but it has the virtue of explaining why the Obama administration did not press to end military aid to Pakistan when bin Laden was found eight hundred yards from its officer training facility,” Miniter wrote.

How Safe Is Pakistan's Nuclear Arsenal?
Militants' storming of a Pakistani Air Force base where some nuclear warheads are reportedly stored has once again sounded the alarms about the security of the country's atomic weapons.
Minhas air base, located just 40 kilometers west of Islamabad in the eastern Punjab Province, is considered a key military facility. It houses warplanes and some of Pakistan's most advanced weapons systems -- possibly including nuclear warheads. So the August 16 attack that left nine suspected Islamic radicals and one Pakistani soldier dead once again raised eyebrows over Islamabad's claims that its nuclear installations are under foolproof security. Much of the concern is predictable, but misdirected, according to experts. The location of Pakistan's nuclear weapons are a highly guarded secret, but despite news reports to the contrary, most observers doubt that warheads are stored at Minhas. Retired General Talat Masood says the real concern is the increasing frequency of high-profile attacks on military facilities. "When defense installations are being targeted so easily -- and we have seen a series of events taking place, starting from the [military's General Headquarters] GHQ to the Mehran [Naval] base, and now this Air Force base -- it shows that these places are vulnerable and Pakistan will have to do a lot more," Masood said. Embarrassing Breaches The country's military, which controls the nuclear arsenal, has suffered numerous embarrassing attacks on key bases in recent years. In May 2011, at least two naval surveillance aircraft were destroyed and 10 people were killed when militants stored the Mehran naval bases in the southern seaport city of Karachi. In October 2009, militants stormed the headquarters of the Pakistani military in Rawalipini close to Islamabad. They took scores of hostages, who were freed after nine attackers were killed in a nearly 20-hour gun battle. Retired Pakistani Brigadier-General Asad Munir, who formerly served in the senior ranks of the military's Inter-Services Intelligence Agency, says that all nuclear installations -- whether civilian or military -- are guarded with elaborate security arrangements. He says that Western countries' concerns that nuclear weapons could fall into the wrong hands have been put to rest. "They know it. They have been here, they have seen the system. They know that it is not easy. It is almost impossible [to breach the nuclear security]. Otherwise they would have taken action. The people who matter know that nobody is in a position to take these installations and take away nukes," Munir said. The UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, considers Pakistan's nuclear program safe and secure. Islamabad has established an elaborate nuclear security apparatus called the Strategic Plans Division. It reportedly keeps the fissile core of Pakistan's nuclear warheads separate from their delivery systems. Islamabad has received some $100 million in U.S. assistance since 9/11 to improve its nuclear safety. Pakistan has reportedly developed its own technologies to prevent accidents and to implement an elaborate system of checks and balances. And as Munir notes, those measures are backed by a strong human deterrent. "As long as the Pakistani army is there, there is no threat to the nuclear weapons. Not even 1 percent," Munir said.


Naïve leaders from Punjab are making the persistent demand for immediate elections without considering the anarchy prevailing in all spheres of life of Pakistan. The writ of the Government had not been restored in some parts of Pakistan and life is not normal in other parts which will prevent the rulers from holding the elections. If demand for holding immediate elections is a political slogan and a pressure tactic on the coalition Government, then it is ok. If the Punjabi leaders are serious in forcing the Government to hold ahead of schedule elections is dangerous then we will be collecting huge crowd of unarmed and innocent people for the terrorists to kill people in thousands in a single explosion. In case of Balochistan, election campaigning is impossible as there is a strong and powerful section, though small, is opposed to parliamentary politics or representative democracy for which they had made some leaders target. The performance of the present Government in power in Balochistan is not ideal and people, in general, are not satisfied as they failed to deliver goods during the present political tenure. Presumably, they will not dare to face their electorates if the elections are called and if they did not enjoy the support of the establishment as usual. In such a case, their future is doomed and they are dumped in the history by the establishment. There is a growing awareness among the people in general not to tolerate any engineered elections. There will be zero tolerance to electoral fraud. Only genuine people enjoying the confidence of their electorates will be tolerated to contest the elections and people will listen to those parties and leaders who served the masses or comparatively more honest in political dealing. Those forces are not coming forward at the moment merely because of complete uncertainty and an adverse political environment created in Balochistan against representative democracy for the genuine people. Holding elections in parts of Balochistan and KP will not be very easy for the Election Commission or the new caretaker Government because of the law and order situation and also because of bitterness among the people on certain political issues. The security environment around Pakistan is not conducive for holding immediate elections, it is generally believed. Military leadership had issued public statements and published in the newspapers and carried by all the news channels in recent past that 20 foreign intelligence agencies are operating in place like Balochistan. If it is a possibility, then many more must be operating in the Federal Capital and the Punjab undermining the security of Pakistan. If the foreign powers are bent upon to settle their score with Pakistan, then there will be a definite interference in holding of transparent elections. It is claimed that during the last elections foreign money was available for certain parties. It was not confirmed by the officials to this date that foreign powers interfered in the last elections or not. Elections mean complete uncertainty. Who will win? No one knows. What will be the policies of the new Government? The entire system will observe a complete halt once the elections are announced. If elections are engineered by the establishment, then there will be no question of uncertainty on the political and economic front. The results will be manipulated in favour of the favourite party. If the stakeholders are confident that there will be no upheaval, no revolution, no least known, unpredictable man will rule this country, the situation will return to normal giving credence to electoral fraud in favour of the new ruling party. Presumably, the international community, led by the US and its allies, will try to defend their interests in the region by playing some role in the scheduled elections—seen or unseen. In the final analysis, elections are a distant dream of the Punjabi politicians and Punjab based political parties who are unaware of the ground realities in the whole country. Pakistan is not confined within the limits of Lahore and its surrounding. By holding one meeting in Quetta, it does not mean that all is well in rest of Balochistan. They will have to depend on their local allies to run the affairs of Balochistan, KPK and Sindh, if not the Seraiki area of Punjab.

Conspiracy against government to fail: Gilani

Former Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani said on Tuesday that forces which were plotting against the government would not succeed. Talking to APP before leaving for Lahore, he said there would be no clash among institutions if they work within their constitutional limits. Gilani categorically ruled out the notion that the differences between PML-N and PTI would benefit the PPP in next election. “Everyone should not forget the fact that all opposite forces were united against Abdul Qadir Gilani in recent by-polls in NA-151 constituency, but nobody could dent the PPP’s vote bank,” he said. He reiterated that President Zardari enjoyed constitutional immunity from prosecution under article-248 and anyone who would write letter to Swiss authorities will commit treason. “I refused to write the letter because I had sworn to protect the Constitution,” he remarked. Meanwhile, Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Syed Khurshid Shah said on Tuesday that local body’s’ elections could not be held before the general elections as it would not be financially viable option, DawnNews reported. Khursheed Shah said “although every political party has different policies and strategies for the elections but the PPP wishes to contest the elections in collaboration with its allies.” He said that a wrong propaganda was being carried out by the opposition parties that the PPP was delaying the general elections. “The general elections would take place in time,” he added. The religious minister said that local-body’s elections would take place after the general elections.